Sunday in their win against the Los Angeles Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs completed their second highest assist game of the season, as they dished 37 assists on their 49 made baskets in that matchup, to blow out the Lakers by 21 points.
While 37 assists are a lot in a ball game, for the Spurs, getting over 30 assists in a game isn’t something that happens too frequently this season. With an offense built around a Top-10 scorer in Kawhi Leonard and a low post/mid-range scorer in LaMarcus Aldridge, on the average night, the Spurs collect 24.0 assists per game, best for 6th in the NBA. The Spurs still try to move the ball around, as 60.6% of their made baskets are assisted on (ranked 9th in the league), but with effective scorers like Leonard and Aldridge, the team has to go to their strengths on the offensive end and try to get those two players to break down the defense, in order to open the offense for the rest of the team.
Looking back at their data, the Spurs have collected 30 or more assists in a game 10 times this season. When reviewing those games with 30 assists, the pattern that seems to be seen is the result in all of those games is a win for the Spurs. So, I researched down to 29 and 28 assists, and after seeing the same result, the following is happening so far for the Spurs this season – when they collect 28 or more assists in a game, they are a perfect 15-0.
So, now that it’s known the Spurs are undefeated when averaging 28 or more assists in a game, I was eager to see what some of the numbers and trends showed among the individual teams in this sample size. For one, the Spurs have a really good chance of collecting over 28 assists if they’re facing a defense that is ranked between 15th to 30th. Of the 15 teams the Spurs have logged 28+ assists against, 11 of them ranked between 15th to 30th in Defensive Rating.
Another trend that is noticeable is the amount of blow-outs taking place when the Spurs do have these mega-assist games. Only five of those 15 games where the Spurs collected 28+ assists had a result that was within 10 points. In the other 10 games, the Spurs beat those teams by double digits in points. When the Spurs tally 28 or more assists in a game, they’re scoring 117.6 points per game and holding the opposing team to just 100.1 points per game, which gives the Spurs a point differential of +17.5 points when they tally 28 or more assists in a game.
While this type of stat is interesting for the regular season, it may not have any significance in the playoffs, since all current Western Conference teams seeded 1-8 have Top-14 defenses except the Denver Nuggets. In the playoffs, the tempo will get slower, games will become more physical, and slugfests can take place where you really have to rely on your top players to make plays. While the Spurs may not see many 28+ assist games in the playoffs, they do have the ingredients offensively for what will be needed in a playoff series – two scorers that can make plays for others and a Top-5 defense that can try to hold opposing offenses from executing their game plan on the other end.